Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 16, 2009

The CUPE Strike That Never Ended

I know I had a lot of CUPE readers during the City strike. They might be interested again in some things I have to say. As might taxpayers in general who are going to be bombarded with propaganda over the next several months to fight the good fight all over again.

And check the UPDATE right at the end too.

If any CUPE Windsor leaders and some misguided CUPE members think that they settled their strike with the City and that everything will be lovely over the next 4 years of their contract term, are they ever mistaken.

The first stage of the war, to weaken the financial position of workers after a 101 day strike, merely ended. That was the softening up stage even though it went on much longer than expected. The major battle is about to start.

Thank goodness the Star is there again to back our Generalissimo, the fighting for the public taxpayer Mayor, Edgar (aka) Francis. Look at what has been published recently:
  • The Brister setup ploys for outsourcing right after the strike ended
  • Mayor and others looking at outsourcing eg the recyclables story re the need for expensive trucks to purchase never mind garbage collection and traffic enforcement
  • tax revenue declines because of the poor economy
  • the budget debate starting with the proposition that we want a 0% tax increase

And what has NOT been published recently but disappeared

  • stories about Junior's proposed attack on the anti-CUPE Members of Council for their failed strike efforts that were detrimental to taxpayers

Then this wonderful Editorial with the unstated target being CUPE:

  • "In fact, a report going to council Monday says the budget process will be set in "what is best described as the proverbial perfect storm." Contributing to this scenario, the report cites "declining revenues due to the highest unemployment rate in Canada and increasing service demands in many areas, including increasing caseloads, management of increasing tax arrears, management of an unprecedented infrastructure program, etc."

    In other words, council has its work cut out for it -- if it is serious about a bottom line that includes a zero increase in the tax levy.

    And given the fact that residential and business owners already pay high taxes, and most will be facing another tough year in 2010, it's hard to imagine any taxpayers want to see an increase in their tax bills next year. Preliminary budget documents already point out that projected wage, salary and benefit increases will create new spending that would result in a four per cent tax hike.

    The report goes on to say "administration advises very significant service level reductions/eliminations will be required to achieve a zero per cent tax levy increase."

    If there's any good news in the report, it's that council has roughly four months to set the budget -- and that provides a reasonable time frame to engage taxpayers in the process and also conduct a thorough spending review. That means being prepared to look at different ways of providing services and, in some cases, the impact of reducing them. City managers must also be challenged to come up with ideas to run departments more efficiently and effectively.

    Let's have the budget debate, with the goal of putting the interests of Windsor's hardpressed taxpayers first."

The assumption is taxpayers want no tax increase and the way to do it is to bust CUPE by outsourcing and slashing jobs and demanding wage cuts or no increases in wages regardless of what the recent contract states. Greedy worker wage increases are the problem. After all, use the auto companies as the precedent to hammer CUPE as before.

Is it any wonder that some at CUPE are gunshy again and afraid that if they tackle the Mayor on the bad faith claim, then CUPE may be hurt again? It brings back into the news the stories about the strike.

The view being expressed by some, as if it makes sense, is to follow the advice of Councillor Valentinis and "move on." Everything will be fine if the apple-cart is not upset.

In a word, would that ever be idiotic.

If any leader of CUPE ever advised that, then he/she ought to be thrown out on their rear end and replaced. If the City wants a war, and it does, then fight it! The negative stories will be brought back regardless. They have already started.

Sure, let the Mayor and others off the hook. Don't serve them with a Notice to be examined by Litigation Counsel. You know how terrified the Mayor and certain Councillors would be of being personally blamed. Don't get at the real truth, but let the "truth" of the Messenger be all that Windsorites know. Ahhh, nothing like Neville Chamberlain and "Peace in our time."

Wake up! The anti-CUPE war is continuing. Anyone suggesting otherwise is delusional hoping appeasement works. It does not as World War II aptly demonstrated.

CUPE must gather all of its resources and get ready for the battle that is already appearing on the horizon:

  • it needs a well-thought out PR campaign that end-runs the Star by going directly to the public and explaining its point of view

  • it needs to put the "fear" into the Mayor and Councillors, especially before an election year

  • it needs to unite the Labour Movement in town and set up a political action committee which will support credible candidates---not just pro-Labour either---with financial support and bodies for the campaign to get rid of the dullards on Council.

  • it needs to counter the anti-CUPE feelings by fighting as vigourously as possible the OLRB "bad faith" complaint, especially by calling the Mayor and certain Councillors and City negotiators as witnesses, perhaps a former official or two as well, to explain the Postma BLOG, the leak, the stairwell deal, the back to Work Protocol near-riot

  • it needs to pray that Junior really can prove what he says and if so, it needs to trumpet to the hills how the taxpayers were fooled, why, by whom and how much the strike really cost everyone

  • depending then on the legal position, it needs on behalf of its members to sue for backpay and the retention of their PRBs!

If CUPE did all that, then they would at least have a bargaining position they do not have today against a City that thought nothing of using taxpayer savings to crush them as the miniscule tax rebate proves.

Thinking again that I am overdramatizing. Hardly.

I already BLOGGED about the Conservatives in England and their anti-public service plans with Canadian assistance. If this can happen as well in oil-rich Alberta with the built-in excuses, then consider what will happen in "have-not" Ontario with its huge budget deficiency. Like it or not, with David Miller fleeing in Toronto by not running for mayor again, Windsor is the battleground one more time and CUPE Windsor has been deemed to be the victim:

  • "Premier freezes public managers' salaries, asks public sector to follow suit

    Calgary Herald, October 14, 2009

    In a prime-time TV address to Albertans, Premier Ed Stelmach defended today his government’s handling of health care and energy development while revealing the deficit-laden province will freeze government manager salaries for two years and ask the entire public sector to follow suit.

    The premier’s 16-minute speech, however, made no mention of MLA wages, which have been frozen for one year. Despite the temporary suspension, Alberta’s premier and his inner circle are making substantially more than they did before the March 2008 provincial campaign.

    Two months after the Tories’ overwhelming election victory, Stelmach and his cabinet ministers approved, behind closed doors, a wage increase of 30 to 34 per cent, while backbench MLAs are paid extra for committee work...

    The province has projected four straight years of deficits. This year’s tally is forecasted at $6.9 billion.

    Stelmach said the government will use its cash reserves to cover the shortfalls and expects to return to a surplus in three years.

    “We’ll take firm action to deal with the fiscal challenges we face. We’ll limit government spending and live within our means,” he said in his speech.

    To help accomplish this, salaries for civil service managers will be frozen for two years,” the premier added. “And we will be asking the entire public sector to share in this effort.”

    The premier’s spokesman, Tom Olsen, said freezing the wages of 6,500 managers in 2010-11 and 2011-12 will save the government a total of $22 million. He noted the province could save hundreds of millions in additional dollars if unions representing government workers, teachers, university staff, nurses and doctors agree to a two-year pay freeze as of April 1, 2010.

    “Whether they have contracts up for negotiation or whether they have contracts in place, we’re asking for, voluntarily, individuals to forego those raises,” Olsen said.

    “We want everyone to buy in . . . to be part of the solution,” he added. “There’s no heavy-handedness.”

    Despite not mentioning MLA salaries in today’s speech, Olsen suggested the premier won’t let politicians’ salaries rise.

    “We’re not going to ask managers to have a freeze and then MLAs are getting raises. That’s not going to happen,” Olsen said.

    He didn’t, however, address the 30 to 34 per cent cabinet salary hike introduced in 2006.

    Aside from announcing manager salary freezes, Stelmach steered clear of mentioning new government measures in his TV address..."

    The premier noted the recession has battered government coffers and several of the province’s key industries, including natural gas, agriculture and forestry."


It looks like the CUPE members will be asked whether they want to go forward on the bad faith claim or not soon.

It is NOT merely a legal issue no matter what the CUPE lawyer says about how hard or how easy it will be to win. It is a strategic matter for CUPE members to decide on their own in which the future of the Union and of each individual worker is at stake.

CUPE members have no alternative but to move forward and fight in my not so humble opinion!